This article has been updated with some new thoughts. Years ago, there was a play called "How to succeed in business without really trying". Clearly this would be a fantasy for most people, the truth is success comes from a number of deliberate steps and behaviors. Interestingly enough, these behaviors are all endorsed in the Bible. The following are my guiding principles for working and serving:
0. Give it your best.
"Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him." - Deuteronomy 17:1 - NIV
What does this verse have to do with us? We don't sacrifice animals anymore, so how does this apply? God wants us to give him our best every time, our best efforts, not just a half hearted effort, he wants the first part of our earnings as the tithe and not what is left over, he wants our hearts and not just passing thoughts. God doesn't need anything from us, but we need to give him our very best for our spiritual well being, to remind us that he should be first in our lives. Giving your best can be an act of worship, if your heart is right.
"Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom." - Ecclesiastes 9:10 - NLT
Our God never does things half way, and neither should we. This applies to work and ministry and life in general. Whatever we do, do our best, regardless of whether we enjoy it or not. One of the tests of character is do we do our enthusiastic best on tasks we do not enjoy. It pays off if we do. The right heart attitude helps.
0. Honesty is the best policy.
God expects, demands honesty from us, in all things, even little things. We are to be honest, fair and truthful to our employers, those we employ, and those we do business with. Have you ever left a store and found out they undercharged you or missed ringing something up? What did you do when you found out? God's answer is go back and let them know and pay for it. Typically, the workers or store owner will be surprised and even grateful. That is a great opportunity to witness and shine God's light from the city on the hill.
“Do not steal. Do not deceive or cheat one another. Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the LORD. Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.” - Leviticus 19:11-13 - NLT
0. Get to it.
“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” - Proverbs 14:23 - NLT
Sometimes you read something in the bible or in study notes and then not long after some thing totally outside of the bible reminds you again. When that happens, we firmly believe God is trying to make a point. This happens to us all of the time.
We have been reading through the bible, beginning to end, and are in 1st Kings a while ago reading about the end of David's reign, and the point we got was that David was a man after God's heart, he prayed and worshipped and composed songs to the Lord constantly, but after praying he acted. He went to work, he didn't sit there passively and wait for God to provide (although sometimes you need to wait for God). He prayed for guidance and strength to carry out his mission and through his work, God provided.
Now here is the reinforcement. We gave our little dog a ball that squeaks when squeezed. When it squeaks she goes crazy. When we set the ball on the floor she stared at it and barked at it but no squeak. She kept that up for a long time and still the ball would not squeak. If she had just she grabbed and bit the ball and squeezed it, the ball would have squeaked. That ball will not squeak without the work needed to make it squeak.
Pray for guidance, wisdom and strength then get to work. This applies to everything in our lives, for example our finances. If you are in debt, pray and get to work. So, pray and get to work. Grab the ball and give it a good hard squeeze and you will get the results you need.
“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty! Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.” - Proverbs 14:23-24 - NLT
0. Action speaks louder than words.
The verse below was initially selected to talk about work, but it really applies to all of life. God raises us up and he can bring us down. As much as we want to believe it is by our efforts alone, it is really our efforts and God's grace that bring us success in whatever we do. We should always give our best effort, but never forget God raises us up.
“I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’ I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists! Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens or speak with such arrogance.’ For no one on earth—from east or west, or even from the wilderness— should raise a defiant fist. It is God alone who judges; he decides who will rise and who will fall.” - Psalms 75:4-7 - NLT
0. Lead by example
"Don't lord it over people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example." 1 Peter 5:3 - NLT
“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” - Philippians 2:12-15 - NLT
0. Avoid making your boss look bad
Always try to make your boss look good, avoid doing things that could make them look bad, and never ever let them be blindsided.
"A king rejoices in wise servants but is angry with those who disgrace him." Proverbs 14:35 - NLT
0. Mind your own business
"Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you don't need to compare yourself to anyone else". Galatians 6:4 - NLT
Comparing yourself to others or worrying about what others do or don't do, (if they don't report to you, of course) is at best distracting and at worst can make you miserable. It makes your days long, unhappy and unproductive.
0. Play nicely
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:16-18 - NLT
Having a reputation of working well with others will never hurt you in the world, and will definitely make you promotable in this world of teams.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for equipping us with all we need to serve you. I pray this in Jesus holy and precious name. Amen.
If you work hard and give it your best, you will reap dividends both in this world and the next.
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” - Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NLT